In some languages like Japanese, personal pronouns tend to carry strong connotations and are often avoided in favor of names and titles, in both formal and informal contexts.

In others like Finnish, pronouns and conjugations indicating person predominate, and it would generally be considered odd if not rude to refer to somebody by their own name during a conversation. (Sorry, Dale Carnegie!)

Is there a term in linguistics for this phenomenon, and if yes, are there any standard measures for where a given language falls on the spectrum?

Update: Thanks all! There's a new shiny Pronoun avoidance page on Wikipedia now, please edit away.

  • For me pronoun avoidance is at best half the story, or perhaps is a Eurocentric way of framing the issue. If a preference for names over pronouns is pronoun avoidance, why isn't a preference for pronouns over names name avoidance? I'm also unsure that titles/capacity descriptions/kinship terms can be assimilated so easily to names. This seems to be driven by the view that they are just devices for avoiding pronouns, which sounds like the same prejudice again, and also means that you don't expect to find pronouns used in conjunction with names/titles/kinship terms, which is at least Qable.
    – rchivers
    Aug 3, 2021 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


The term is named "Pronoun Avoidance" and you can see which languages avoid using pronouns for politeness in this map: https://wals.info/feature/45A#2/25.7/137.0

Also see the explanation in WALS: https://wals.info/chapter/45

  • Perfect, thank you! Aug 3, 2021 at 3:24

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